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A Damsel and a Dragon

I've been keeping my eyes open for odonates (damselflies and dragonflies) lately. So far I've only seen a couple of species. There were common baskettails flying in the yard a few days ago. They declined to be photographed.

This fragile forktail was only slightly more cooperative. At least I was able to get enough of a shot to ID the little critter.  You may be able to see the little exclamation mark on its shoulder (click to embiggen).  That's diagnostic for this species.
I was able to get several shots of one particular dragonfly that happened by at work yesterday.  It was much more cooperative than the other odes...



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This particular dragonfly is a solar electric hybrid on its way back to PA where it will complete a 6500 mile journey that began last June. The captain told me he was getting about 65% of his power from the sun. Not too shabby.


A Few More Things Spring

Falcate Orangetip on cress.
Southern Leopard Frog looking for love.
Red Maple samaras almost ready to let go and take their chances on the wind.
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Around the Yard

Yesterday, when I should have been cleaning the house, I took a stroll about the yard to check on things.

The red peach is in bloom.  Hopefully, we won't have another hard frost.  I would like to have some peaches this year.
Some of the blueberries are starting to bloom as well.  See the little cut marks on the blossom below?  They indicate that somebody cheated -- instead of poking its head into the bloom and helping to pollinate it, the insect that visited this flower just went straight for the nectar.  Bad bug!
The yellow jessamine is just starting to bloom.  It is very late this year.  The flower has a lovely fragrance.
Yellow jessamine buds.
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Some people call this mock strawberry, some call it Indian strawberry.  My mom called it snakeberry.  Following the bright bloom will be a strawberry-like fruit with the seeds sitting on the outside.  They aren't poisonous, but neither are they palatable.
This little fellow cracked me up.  I don't know if he perched this way on purpose to maximize exposure to sunlight or if he just landed this way. 
Can you find the frog in this photo?  Look closely, he's there.

Can you see him now?
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It's a cricket frog. It's much easier to see out on the driveway ;)
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Spring Things

Things continue to be crazy busy in the swamp. Seems everyday I'm either out with a group or working on trails -- unfortunately, neither activity lends itself to taking pictures to share. I hope to have some free time by next weekend. Maybe then I'll have a bit more to share. Meanwhile, here are a few shots I did manage to take this week...

Check out the saddlebags on this worker bee. She was busy visiting all the dandelions in the yard at work.

I see you! This very calm garter snake was on the trail yesterday. Treebeard and I were leading a bird hike and this fine fellow almost got stepped on.
Isn't he a beauty?

Last but not least, spotted turtles under the boardwalk. Yep, they're doing what you think they're doing. Spring is definitely in the air (in the water, too).
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Swamp Paddle

Last week was crazy busy in the ranger world. It started with two hundred third graders and ended with three interpretive hikes on Saturday. In between there were presentations to peers and numerous spontaneous programs for park visitors. After a week like that it was nice to have a beautiful Sunday off. We got up dark and early (thanks to the hated Daylight Saving Time) and headed to the millpond. A couple of friends from Raleigh had asked Treebeard to guide them up through the swamp to the virgin cypress. You might think that after a week full of interpretation the last thing I would want to do would be to go along -- but you'd be wrong ;)

A bit of shore line in the morning sun. 
The day was warm with a mix of sun and clouds.  It was a tad breezy, but not too bad.
See that reddish color on the water right along the shore?

It was a patch of mosquito fern dotted with green duckweed.
Mosquito fern, Azolla caroliniana, is a native aquatic fern. I've written about it before on this blog, but I'm too lazy to go back and create a link for you.  Blame the time change.

Throughout the pond and swamp one finds a little green fern making itself at home on tree trunks and along branches.  It is known as resurrection fern, Pleopeltis polypodioides ssp. michauxiana.
When conditions are dry, the fronds curl up and turn brown.

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When humidity levels are acceptable, fronds unfurl and green up.

The "polypodioides" portion of the name refers to the "many-footed" creeping nature of the plant's growth habit.

I took one quick shot of Treebread showing Bill, Stephanie, and the intrepid Silva (the little dog that you can barely see) one of the big trees in the swamp.  I've written about this tree numerous times.  It is a baldcypress that is over 1000 years old.  We measured it a few years back and it had a circumference of 28 ft 3 in.  It is still growing and producing cones.
This picture doesn't do the tree justice.  You really need to see it and touch it to fully appreciate it.

We stopped for lunch around mid-day.  There is a little island in the swamp that provides the perfect spot for a picnic.  While we were eating lunch we had a visit from an island native...
This rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta, was quite calm -- the picture above is not a zoom shot.

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The island is also home to a small population of the only trillium that grows in our area, the Virginia Least Trillium (Trillium pusillum var. virginianum)
The flowers are small and can be difficult to find among the leaf litter, but it's worth the time it takes to locate them.

When we headed back out onto the pond we saw this little fellow in the transition zone.  It's a small brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota) hanging out among the wicked thorns of a swamp rose (Rosa palustris).  It's still a little cool for the water snakes to be very active.  In another couple of weeks these guys will be everywhere.

After about seven hours of paddling it was time for our friends to pack up and head out.  Treebeard and I headed home too, but we weren't ready to go inside.  Instead, we wandered around our property to see what we could see.
We found violets (Viola sp.) and johnny-jump-ups (Viola bicolor) blooming...

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leaves of may apples (Podophyllum peltatum) making their way out...
male flowers on musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) waiting for the female flowers to appear...

buds on the sassafras (Sassafras albidum) ready to burst...

and black cherry (Prunus serotina var. serotina) leaves and flower buds getting bigger.

Yes, it was a very good day.

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